Former President Donald Trump sat down for an interview with Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier this week for a wide-ranging discussion that included his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump, who is now the early front-runner in the 2024 GOP presidential primary, said he did not have any regrets about his response to the global health crisis, asserting that he left much of the response up to leaders at the state level instead of imposing sweeping federal mandates.
He recalled telling governors “you can do what you want, you can shut it down or not,” and shared his perspective that some states handled the responsibility better than others.
Some Republican-led states, including Georgia, Trump said, “did a good job” even as nearby Florida opted to impose widespread lockdown measures.
Of course, Trump’s nearest primary rival is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and this was not the first time he denounced the Sunshine State’s response to COVID-19.
Lockdowns. Armed Checkpoints. School Shutdowns. Beach and Business Closures.@Forbes: In 2020, Ron DeSantis issued some of the most draconian Covid restrictions of anywhere in the United States.pic.twitter.com/9tvSKK5N7z
— Team Trump (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TeamTrump) June 20, 2023
Last month, Trump insisted that former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, did better at mitigating the pandemic than DeSantis did.
“How about the fact that he had the third-most deaths of any state?” Trump asked, adding: “Even Cuomo did better. He was No. 4.”
It is worth noting that Florida and New York are the third- and fourth-most populous U.S. states, respectively.
While DeSantis received criticism at the time for delaying lockdown measures in Florida and rescinding them sooner than many other states, Trump asserted in retrospect that the governor was actually too heavy-handed in his approach to the public health emergency.
As for his own approach to the pandemic, Baier asked Trump if he had any regrets about how much his administration spent on tackling the problem.
“No,” Trump responded.
The interview then shifted to the criticism some of Trump’s fellow Republican presidential hopefuls have expressed about his lockdown policies.
“And do you have regrets about doing that?” Baier asked.
Trump again defended his positions, explaining: “I gave the governors the options. For instance, [Republican Gov.] Henry McMaster of South Carolina … he didn’t shut it down. Tennessee didn’t shut it down. South Dakota didn’t shut it down. Georgia shut it down for a little while, but not much. They did a good job. … It’s a federalist system. I told all governors, you do what you want, you can shut it down or not. Florida, by the way, he shut it down tight, no highways, no beaches, no this.”